The journey from nowhere special to the cover of Practical Horseman, GP update pg 7!
I was able to get my hands on the July issue of Practical Horseman early and got to see one of my greatest hopes realized; that my once-in-a-lifetime horse would get the recognition that I think she deserves. I'm sort of in shock still. It's hard to believe that she really is on the cover of a magazine, especially with me riding her, when I look back on the journey that was required to get to where we are and the hard work of so, so many people who gave me everything they could to see us to our current destination. This will be long. I apologize. But bear with me please; I really want to recognize the whole "Nikki team" if I can.
I didn't grow up on the A circuit. We couldn't afford it. But I got lucky enough to have a mom who is a professional and could buy young ponies for me to ride while she trained them. She put a foundation on me like no other, has been complimented on it by some big, big name people, and has never stopped giving to my riding. She taught me horsemanship, discipline, and responsibility. She taught Nikki much of her flatwork and now does the "behind the scenes" stuff; caring for Nikki, riding her when I'm at school, being jump crew, videographer, and show mom all in one... and being a shoulder to cry on when things go wrong (and trust me, when all you ride are green animals or a hotheaded mare who is quite often smarter and definitely more opinionated than you are, you have many occasions for tears). http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-..._2478362_n.jpg <-- Me, Cyndy, and Nikki at the ring in Vermont
Of course, there's also my trainer who took on the challenge of a kid who could only ship in for lessons, who had green ponies and no experience, a whole host of nerves at shows, and a tendency to be too hard on herself. I've been riding with her since I was showing in the small/medium children's ponies. I'm now showing in the high amateur-owner jumpers. She's brought me (and Nikki) a long way. It hasn't been an easy road and there have been days where both of us were so frustrated, either because I was doing a very good impression of having never ridden in my life or because whoever I was riding just wasn't in the game that day, that we wanted to scream (and sometimes I'm sure we wanted to scream at each other). But she never gave up on me and kept pushing me for more. She's known me long enough to know my quirks and know how to work around them - I refuse to eat breakfast before a big class or before moving up because I get so nervous that I throw up, I can't jog with spurs on because I inevitably trip over them, knowing the numbers in lines is more often a bad thing than a good one because I fixate on them, I kind of shut down if I'm yelled at... and more. It is a relationship with mutual respect and she listens to me when I have something to say. http://good-times.webshots.com/photo...54933411QvvKWw
Kip's barn manager, Joan, has also put a ton of work into the Nikki-Emily team. A ton. We spent 3 winters working with her while Kip was in Florida and each one led to such drastic improvement, it made Kip's jaw drop when she came back. They weren't easy winters, don't get me wrong - the first involved teaching Nikki flatwork (my mom was still schooling her at this point, as she didn't know much), a feat which had me discouraged and disappointed more often than not. But we got through it and then were able to move on to "good isn't good enough". It's amazing how you can rise to the challenge when the ante is upped. I wish I had a picture with Joan but I don't.
There are two people who also deserve recognition, as they have both put a huge amount of time into keeping Nikki happy, sound, and comfortable. They are Dr. Richard Urban and Joe Santos. Nikki is very hard to shoe; she's well behaved but VERY flat-footed with an underslung heel on her right front. It seems like Joe always knows what to do to keep Nikki's angles right and her feet happy, even if he has to resort to unconventional ways!! We would be completely lost without both Dr. Urban and Joe!
While Nikki belongs to me in that I am registered as her owner and my family paid for her when we bought her, one of the grooms at the barn has adopted her. He cared for her until my mom started being in control of her care and it is very clear to everyone that Nikki is Adolfo's horse. He comes to the ring to watch her show, urged me to show her in the grand prix in Vermont having just moved up to the highs (we did not listen to this particular bit of advice), and can sometimes be found down at Nikki's stall stroking her face the way she likes it.
There are so many people who have contributed to Nikki's success. It would be hard to name everyone. Even people who have just helped me with her in clinics (thank you to Joe Fargis [who also cheered me up considerably after a mistake at the National Horse Show and loaned me a bit for a class] and Mclain Ward), had a nice compliment for me or a treat for Nikki at a show...everyone has had an impact. You can't mention everyone in an article, but Steve Price did a pretty impressive job writing a beautiful piece about us - thanks Steve!
I never imagined that we would have a story like this - that I would be so fortunate to be the rider on a horse this incredible and that we would come as far as we have. Nikki was purchased to be my junior hunter, and she did the job we asked. I don't think any of us knew where we'd end up. We're hoping to do our first grand prix in a few weeks. Who would have guessed?
I actually just saw that magazine in a tack shop on Friday, and I noticed the beautiful picture on the cover. I didn't buy it, since I'm a subscriber, but now I can't wait for it to appear in my mailbox so I can read it.
I just read this yesterday! Three thoughts:
3. Intriguing bit. What is it and what led you to use it?
Nikki shows in a mechanical hackamore, sometimes known as a hackabit. There are a lot of different bit pieces that you can get for it; hers is a straight, soft rubber bar and we have a curb chain on the bit as well (not in the cover picture - we tried several things before settling on the chain). She goes really well in a hackamore - she's very shallow mouthed and so a lot of bits do not make her terribly happy - but she thinks brakes are optional sometimes when there's absolutely no bit. And sometimes (sometimes!), I have the right idea about braking, despite what she thinks. As such, I needed a little more control than I had with the hackamore, so we switched to the hackabit.